review of Railways of Boston by Neil Wright

Written on Sunday 19th December 2010

Neil R Wright, The Railways of Boston: their origins and development 1848-1998, second edition, Richard Kay, Boston, Lincs. (1998), 68 pp ?4.95.

This is the second edition of a booklet originally published in 1971, a further chapter having been added to the original seven to bring the account up to the present day. If offers a detailed chronology of the origins and development of the railways of Boston, Lincolnshire, the home town of the emigrants who gave its name to their settlement of Massachusetts. However, the author writes not just for the benefit of Bostonians interested in their local history but, in what is a very readable narrative, reflects the wider transport scene over two centuries. Of particular interest is the impact of changing technology on trade and industry, particularly with the coming of the railway.

The port of Boston was developed to export agricultural produce from the Lincolnshire Fens, and coal from the Midlands, to London and farther afield. Steamships were introduced in the mid 1800s, passenger traffic also being carried. The firs ideas for railways to the town were put forward in 1836, lines being projected from Nottingham and London, whilst during the period known as the Railway Mania Lincolnshire, and Boston in particular, was the subject of several proposals for railways. Indeed, the year 1846 saw as many as twelve plans being submitted to Parliament, several of them conflicting. Landowners and merchants opposed those schemes which cut across their personal interests, and in the end only four of the twelve were enacted. The arrival of the Great Northern Railway in 1848 transformed the town, as a result of improvements in communications and the introduction of new sources of employment.

Later development included enlargement of the docks, leading to increased trade such that in the early 1900s Boston was the chief revenue-earning station in Lincolnshire. However in contrast to the early expansion of the railway network, the later twentieth century saw a drastic reduction, leaving only one through line in service.

Six maps are included, together with full references, although an index is lacking. There are twenty-one photographs, some of which could have been reproduced to a higher standard.

By: Geoffrey Hughes.

Courtesy of: The Journal of Transport History 20/2


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